Monday, June 24, 2019

More Robot Cars, More Fun in the City

Drivers are already ditching their cars because of apps like Uber. Imagine what happens when driverless cars hit the roads.

Why bother owning a car when you can easily get where you want via your iPhone? This concept is known as “mobility as a service”, where passengers no longer own to their own cars, instead signing on for transportation-on-demand booked through smartphones.

Perhaps, for instance, a commuting plan that charges by the mile or through a monthly fee, like Netflix. Getting rid of cars in growing urban centers is a smart idea, and the world’s automakers are preparing in various ways. A major switch to subscription transportation requires two components. The first is already well underway: the explosion of ride-hailing apps like Uber, Lyft, Grab and others.
The second is still in the works — driverless cars.

Removing the human from behind the wheel slashes the cost of a taxi ride which will make mobility as a service so cheap in many places, it won’t make financial sense to own a car any longer. Lowering the cost per mile will turbo-charge demand for mobility as a service, likely to become a $10 trillion business, according to Ford Motor Company.

That's why tech giants like Google and Apple are developing their own self-driving systems to take on the world's leading automakers, including Volkswagen, General Motors, Ford, and Toyota.

Eventually, a single smartphone app could connect us to a web of options, such as robo-taxis, self-driving shuttles, on-demand subway or tram, e-bikes, and electric scooters. No more driving ourselves though congested cities. All that parking freed up means more space for pedestrians and parks. Unless it is bad — fleets of individually-owned driverless vehicles loosed upon streets and highways, randomly ferrying individual occupants near and far. Or, with so many shared rides, significantly fewer vehicles will be on the road, where is the need to spend billions on bigger highways?

Autonomous vehicles will revolutionize passenger transport, but they are also rapidly changing the delivery business. Data generated from self-driving cars will provide cities with “a more granular viewpoint into everything from infrastructure wear-and-tear to detailed traffic flow information and even sidewalk congestion patterns,” says Brooks Rainwater, director of the Center for City Solutions at the National League of Cities.

Read more here…  http://fortune.com/2019/02/22/self-driving-cars-cities/

Monday, June 17, 2019

How to Make Continuous Delivery a Reality in an Agile Environment

Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) are core elements of successful DevOps. Systems engineers may start with CI because it is familiar. With a DevOps focus, organizations uncover configuration, packaging, and orchestration that are necessary to effective software development life cycle (SDLC). This empowers developers, administrators and engineers to create valuable CD practices, adding to agility.

Where less experienced developers might struggle with CI/CD performance, testing delays and other bottlenecks, the enterprise would do well to develop processes and best practices to make DevOps in the cloud a value-driven methodology. To save money, this will shorten the SDLC — because CD is all about updating web services. In public clouds such as AWS and Azure, this is done through pipeline stages (e.g. dev, test, staging and production). When containers are implemented with a platform-as-a-service (PAAS) approach, stages become sandbox environments, scratch instances, and production instances.

The benefit of such an approach is that the work outputs and products themselves benefit from flexibility. Regular face-to-face interactions and collaborations between team members are conducted to ensure the scrum teams level-set expectations. Finally, add value by continuous delivery throughout the life cycle, so that the end product is more secure and more reliable. Implementing an agile manifesto tracks with addressing evolving end user requirements. 

For CD, ensure user stories are married correctly to those requirements and that each story rolls up to an Epic that represents a standalone feature. This enables the devops team to release reasonably sized components of functionality that are consumable by users. These are also traceable back to the release plan. We want to ensure verification at each stage because this process defines acceptance criteria — so the stakeholders know when something is declared “finished.”

Schema, user interface, access control rights and static resources such as icons and images are all part of the creation process and we manage them just as diligently as source code. The DevOps team checks assets into a version control system as a single source of truth (GIT or Subversion). This benefits the client by ensuring that developers are making changes in a segregated environment — catastrophic failures are completely avoided with such approach, and integration into a risk management-based security framework is seamless. 


The organization should understand automated quality processes are essential — Selenium is a go-to tool for testing functionality. There are several verifications to make before functional testing. Static code analysis tools, such as PMD, are essential to ensure code conforms to a single style. Unit test coverage is also essential — establish a set of Key Performance Inidcators (KPIs) for coverage of at least 75% of code. Finally, after these automated tests pass, implement a manual peer review. This enables seasoned developers  to spot opportunities for performance improvement where automated tools can’t.

Monday, June 10, 2019

GDPR will impact more than privacy

Similar to how GDPR hugely impacted how millions of organizations handle personal data when it was enforced last year, Strong Customer Authentication (or SCA) will have profound implications for how businesses handle online transactions and how we pay for things in our everyday lives when it is enforced on September 14.

SCA will require an extra layer of authentication for online payments. Where a card number and address once sufficed, customers will now be required to include at least two of the following three factors to do anything as simple as ordering a taxi or pay for a music streaming service. Something they know (like a password or PIN), something they own (like a token or smartphone), and something they are (like a fingerprint or biometric facial features).

Without careful preparation, failed transactions and additional friction may have a significant negative impact on conversion rates.



Monday, April 29, 2019

How Software Was Egregiously (and Poorly) Used to Hide Major Engineering Deficiencies

In this article on IEEE Spectrum, we read:

It is astounding that no one who wrote the MCAS software for the 737 Max seems even to have raised the possibility of using multiple inputs, including the opposite angle-of-attack sensor, in the computer's determination of an impending stall. As a lifetime member of the software development fraternity, I don't know what toxic combination of inexperience, hubris, or lack of cultural understanding led to this mistake. But I do know that it's indicative of a much deeper problem. The people who wrote the code for the original MCAS system were obviously terribly far out of their league and did not know it.
So Boeing produced a dynamically unstable airframe, the 737 Max. That is big strike No. 1. Boeing then tried to mask the 737's dynamic instability with a software system. Big strike No. 2. Finally, the software relied on systems known for their propensity to fail (angle-of-attack indicators) and did not appear to include even rudimentary provisions to cross-check the outputs of the angle-of-attack sensor against other sensors, or even the other angle-of-attack sensor. Big strike No. 3... None of the above should have passed muster. None of the above should have passed the "OK" pencil of the most junior engineering staff... That's not a big strike. That's a political, social, economic, and technical sin... 
The 737 Max saga teaches us not only about the limits of technology and the risks of complexity, it teaches us about our real priorities. Today, safety doesn't come first -- money comes first, and safety's only utility in that regard is in helping to keep the money coming. The problem is getting worse because our devices are increasingly dominated by something that's all too easy to manipulate: software.... I believe the relative ease -- not to mention the lack of tangible cost -- of software updates has created a cultural laziness within the software engineering community. Moreover, because more and more of the hardware that we create is monitored and controlled by software, that cultural laziness is now creeping into hardware engineering -- like building airliners. Less thought is now given to getting a design correct and simple up front because it's so easy to fix what you didn't get right later.
The article also reveals that: "not letting the pilot regain control by pulling back on the column was an explicit design decision. Because if the pilots could pull up the nose when MCAS said it should go down, why have MCAS at all?  ...MCAS is implemented in the flight management computer, even at times when the autopilot is turned off, when the pilots think they are flying the plane." 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Knowledge Worker Productivity Improvements with Machine Learning


Leveraging machine learning to enhance capabilities that can recognize context, concepts, and meaning means there are interesting new opportunities for collaboration between knowledge workers and computational power. For example, Bluedog’s experts can now provide more of their own input for training, quality control, and fine-tuning of algorithm-based outcomes. We use the computational power of our servers to augment the expertise of human collaborators — this helps to create new areas for our experts to leverage.

For example, at Bluedog, we utilize several algorithm-based tools to help us quickly assess opportunities for our clients. We extract information from Word Documents locally for multiple uses. With one tool, we take advantage of each Word document’s XML metadata. From there, we use a regex library to find each targeted word or phrase in the document, then adding them to a list. Our toll then performs for-loops to scan for relevant patterns in the XML to extract data.

Knowledge workers — the staff or consultants who reason, create, decide, and apply insight into non-routine cognitive processes — can contribute to redesigning work process roles and team member roles. Consider financial auditing, where AI is likely to become pervasive. Often, when AI offers a finding, the algorithm’s reasoning isn’t obvious to the accountant, who ultimately must offer an explanation to a client — characteristic of the “black box” problem. To improve this outcome, Bluedog recommends providing an interface so experts to enter concepts they deem important into the system and be provided with a means to test their own hypotheses. In this way, we recommend making models accessible to common sense. 

As cybersecurity concerns mount, organizations have increased the use of instruments to collect data at various points in their network to analyze threats — and to address “Internet-of-Things” (IoT) devices. However, many of these data-driven systems do not integrate data from multiple sources. Nor do they incorporate the common-sense knowledge of cybersecurity experts, who know the range and diverse motives of attackers, understand typical internal and external threats, and appreciate the degree of risk to an organization. 


Bluedog’s experts specify the use of Bayesian models — which employ probabilistic analysis to capture complex interdependence among risk factors —  combined with expert systems judgment. In cybersecurity for enterprise networks, complex factors may include large numbers and types of devices on the network. It is crucial to access the knowledge of the organization’s security experts about attackers and risk profile to better intercept cybercriminals.

Monday, April 22, 2019

SIFT Score - the West's Answer to China's Social Credit Rating. Thanks, Big Brother

Data on what you buy, how, and where is secretly fed into AI-powered verification services, according to the Wall Street Journal. These are supposed to help companies guard against credit-card and other forms of fraud.

More than 16,000 signals are analyzed by a service called Sift, which generates a "Sift score," used to flag devices, credit cards and accounts that a vendor may want to block based on a person or entity's overall "trustworthiness" score. From the Sift website: "Each time we get an event -- be it a page view or an API event -- we extract features related to those events and compute the Sift Score. These features are then weighed based on fraud we've seen both on your site and within our global network, and determine a user's Score. There are features that can negatively impact a Score as well as ones which have a positive impact."

The system is similar to a credit score except there's no way to find out your own Sift score. This sounds a lot like the data that China's social credit system, in part, uses. In the PRC, a person's social score can vary depending on their behavior. The exact methodology is a secret — but examples of infractions include bad driving, smoking in non-smoking zones, buying too many video games and posting fake news online. While Edward Snowden certainly demonstrated the global extent of the US surveillance state, corporate entities have not implemented anything on the level of the Chinese social scoring system. Yet.


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Using Containers for Secure Web Services

Containers are a means to install and run applications in an isolated environment on a server (physical or virtual). The application running inside a container is limited to resources (CPU, memory, disk, process space, users, networking, volumes) allocated for that container. Access is limited to that container’s resources to avoid conflict with other containers. Think of a container as an isolated sandbox for an application to run in.

The concept is similar to virtual machines, but containers use a light-weight technique to achieve resource isolation, whereby they use the Linux kernel (as opposed to a hypervisor-based approach taken by virtual machines). Containers issue Linux commands to make use of a subset of system resources.

Docker is a popular tool to create and start a container. Docker Community Edition (CE) is ideal for developers and small teams looking to get started with Docker and experimenting with container-based apps. It enables packaging of an app with all its dependencies and libraries.
Here’s more information on using AWS to build secure services with containers.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

End of The Jasons? Who Will Lead if this brain trust is disbanded?

The Department of Defense says is ending a decades-long, open-ended agreement with a legacy science advisory board, a move that has set off alarm bells for some analysts. But the department has not ruled out relying on that office for more information in the future.

The Jasons — an important advisory committee that assessed many difficult issues. Named for Jason of the Argonauts, luminaries on this panel answered (in secret) pressing questions the government had, such as:  Are there UFO? No. Should we nuke Vietnam? Also, no. What is Quantum Computing? Using the spin of quarks like bits. All answered in the 1960s!

As a Federally Funded Research Bureau (FFRB), MITRE doesn’t implement ideas, only the non-profit only consults. After WWII, the government decided it would not be caught with its pants down again (having been severely understaffed after the Depression, at the start of the war). MITRE and other FFRBs are funded as a percent of the total budget — MITRE isn’t taking work from contractors, it is providing neutral oversight and guidance. 

Read more about the Jason at 


Monday, April 15, 2019

This day - April 16, 1178 BCE - was the Return of Odysseus to Ithaca after his Travels

On this day, in 1178 BCE, Odysseus arrived in Ithaca, having begun his way home when the Trojan War ended. He had served ten years as one of the most distinguished leaders of the Greeks. His voyage was fraught with perils: the Cyclopes, Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, and other obstacles.

Read about it at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odyssey#Homecoming


Automation from Robots -- What Jobs are at Risk?

Twelve jobs have a 99 percent chance of being automated, according to a study by Oxford:

  • Data Entry Keyers
  • Library Technicians
  • New Accounts Clerks
  • Photographic Process Workers and Processing Machine Operators
  • Tax Preparers
  • Cargo and Freight Agents
  • Watch Repairers
  • Insurance Underwriters
  • Mathematical Technicians
  • Hand Sewers
  • Title Examiners, Abstractors, and Searchers
  • Telemarketers

Whenever a job has a pattern of repetitive activities, they are most likely to be replicated with machine learning algorithms. Most studies on automation stop short of saying that jobs will be completely eliminated by automation. Rather, workers will be redeployed.

Automation is coming to the most common jobs...


Graphic courtesy of titlemax.com

Friday, April 12, 2019

Project Management Tools - Analog and Digital - Have a Place in Agile

The value of cloud-based task and project management software is obvious -- link teams, keep all information in one place, automate workflow and progress monitoring.

With a good interface, an online tool enables teams to manage Agile projects to plan, assign, prioritize and track tasks efficiently. Use drag 'n drop kanban and backlog/sprint planners for easy and smooth overviews and assignments of tasks.

In the case of scrum, we find there will be multiple sprints. Teams needs to plan quickly for each daily standup. Does this preclude upfront identification of milestones with a WBS? Marrying the two styles is not as incompatible as one might think.  One can use an issue tracker as a to-do list that is focused on accountability. Such issues are the building blocks for progress and can be classified as tasks, bugs, or change requests. Being able to plan out milestones on Gantt charts might seem a strange crossover when applying Agile project management techniques such as Scrum or Kanban. But a timeline-based view of tasks and sub-tasks can aid in communication.

When a project management tool is highly integrated with Git, Subversion, or other code repositories, an integrated workflow is possible. We have found using a wiki to document projects is handy for its simplicity of use.

Read more here...

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Google is Delivering Packages via Drone in Australia

Touted as the world's first commercial drone deliveries, a Google-funded startup won approval from the Australian aviation authority. Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) gave approval to Wing -- a subsidiary of Google's parent company Alphabet -- to deliver packages via unmanned aerial vehicle. An earlier trial of the service proved successful. At the moment, about 100 homes in a suburb of Canberra will initially be eligible for the drone deliveries. A wider roll-out is expected. The Wing team started as an ambitious "moonshot" project inside Google X, testing drones in Australia since 2014.


Friday, March 29, 2019

What You Experience Could Impact Your Offspring


Based on this article in Nature: In 1864, nearing the end of the US Civil War, conditions in the Confederate prisoner of war camps were at their worst, with overcrowding in some camps that Union Army soldier (prisoner) death rates soared. For survivors, the harrowing experiences marked many of them for life -- returning to society with impaired health, worse job prospects, and shorter life expectancy. Such hardships also had an effect on the prisoners’ children and grandchildren, which appeared to be passed down the male line of families. While their sons and grandsons had not suffered the hardships of the PoW camps -- they suffered higher rates of mortality than the wider population. It appeared the PoWs had passed on some element of their trauma to their children.

Your experiences during your lifetime – particularly traumatic ones – would have a very real impact on your family for generations to come. There are a growing number of studies that support the idea that the effects of trauma can reverberate down the generations through epigenetics. For the PoWs in the Confederate camps, these epigenetic changes were a result of the extreme overcrowding, poor sanitation and malnutrition. The men had to survive on small rations of corn, and many died from diarrhoea and scurvy. “There is this period of intense starvation,” says study author Dora Costa, an economist at the University of California, Los Angeles. 
For a long while we have understood that child abuse, for example, is very often passed from one generation to another. And as to how far back some of these cycles of abuse go is hard to determine. There are many cases of a person who was abused themselves -- and they also know what it feels like -- yet, they repeat to another what was done to them. This suggests in some cases a human being appears to have no control over their actions.

Read more here...

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Remote Work - In the future, the norm, not the outlier

Throughout history, control has traditionally been centralized into various structures (governments, information providers, banks, corporations, etc). Certainly, some of this was necessary. Before the telegraphy,  the only way to get information was from newspapers. Depending on where a person lived, they may only have access to “stale” information many days or weeks old. And these information sharing mediums were limited to those who could physically get their hands on a copy, (or have it read to them when literacy rates were only a fraction of what they are today). Telegraphs and telephones increased the speed at which information could travel from point to point. Naturally, the internet changes the landscape for decentralized communication. So why sit in an office?

Clark Valberg, CEO of design software company InvisionApp, has made it his mission to modernize the workplace... by eliminating [the office] altogether. A decentralized workforce enables employers to access "passionate talent anywhere in the world irrespective of any geographic boundary," Valberg says, but implies "a renewed respect for the need for people to have a door that closes."

Today's world is built around instant, worldwide communication. Mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have shown that anyone, anywhere can disseminate information to millions of people, with just an upload. The nature of a team might be distributed -- or scattered. In either case, the actual number of working locations might be the same, but esprit de corps is very different. People on distributed teams arrive in that situation by design -- creating a stronger team by hiring the best people, regardless of location.



Read more here... and check out WeWork's first Dublin operation...

Friday, March 22, 2019

Why Process is Important to Scale Agile

Using SafeAgile and other lean software development approaches require customization for the organization. It isn’t good enough to just duplicate the efforts of others. Organizational change management means addressing top-down control that is in opposition to change — this will undermine agility.

Each agile team is different and needs to learn what works. In many cases, this means scaling agility outside of functional areas. Breaking down silos is key to the cross-over benefits of agile, reflecting the cross-functional nature of agile. Agility means putting in place defined engineering practices, with process controls.

While daily stand-ups and Kanban boards are important, to build high-quality software quickly, organizations should incorporate automated builds, automated testing, and automated deployments, among other things.

Read more... about SafeAgile


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Will Robo-Cars be Unaffordable?

Many are eagerly awaiting self-driving cars -- but we should recall that all of Silicon Valley’s big bets don’t always pay off.

Silicon Valley is pouring billions into robot cars. Soon – although the time scale keeps shifting – tech manufacturers say driverless cars will replace their traditional counterparts, car parks will become parks again and road fatalities will plummet. People have argued over ethical concerns surrounding the technology, the ensuing job losses and the public’s antipathy to this robot revolution. But the biggest obstacle may well be money.

The article continues, "Driver wages are a key part of taxi fares today. The average cab ride in San Francisco, for example, will cost you around $13. The driver keeps most of that. There is one caveat, however. Taxis are inefficient – so inefficient in fact that cabbies only spend about half their time earning fares."

Read more here....

Monday, March 11, 2019

Tim Berners-Lee Warns of a Breakdown of the World Wide Web

Global action is required to tackle the web's "downward plunge to a dysfunctional future", its inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee has told the BBC. He made the comments in an exclusive interview to mark 30 years since he submitted his proposal for the web.

Read more here: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-47524474



Friday, March 8, 2019

Oracle Java Copyright is Dangerous to the Developer Community

The US Supreme Court has been urged to hear Google out in its long-running copyright battle with Oracle over the search giant’s use of Java technology in Android. A number of amicus briefs have been filed with the top court in support of Google, with Microsoft, Red Hat and Mozilla, along with the Python Software Foundation, Developers Alliance, and the EFF, backing the web titan against database-slinger Oracle.

These recount an earlier court ruling in Oracle's favor on the fair use of Java APIs – stating, as it stands, that it sets a dangerous precedent that breaks long-standing and well-understood rules on software development, risks confusing the community and will damage innovation.

Google insists it built the Android platform on the computer industry’s “long-accepted practice of re-using software interfaces” – and that Oracle is "trying to profit by changing the rules of software development after the fact."

The Developers Alliance also sought to emphasize the knock-on effects of the decisions. “The current case has implications that go far beyond the two litigants involved,” as written in this PDF...

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Ireland's First Report on GDPR

Last month marks the release of the first annual GDPR report from Ireland’s data protection supervisory authority, the Data Protection Commission (DPC). This is a follow-on from the DPC’s final pre-GDPR annual report and covers May through December of 2018.

The report confirms the DPC’s role as the clearinghouse for cross-border privacy complaints: A new category, termed ‘multinational complaints – others’, makes up 22% of all GDPR complaints in the report. These complaints are second to access rights as the largest category of complaint. 

This document also sets out the DPC’s views on the new complaint-handling mechanism under the Data Protection Act of 2018. When a negotiated resolution is not possible, the DPC is no longer legally obliged to make a formal, statutory decision. Instead, the DPC has a range of options: providing advice to the complainant; issuing statutory notices to controllers or processors; and, opening statutory enquires.

If a non-EU company is offering services over the internet to consumers in the EU, these companies are required to have a  data protection representative due to increased territorial scope. Article 3 of the GDPR applies to any ‘data subject’ in the EU, i.e. a person living in the EU. Notably, Article 3(2) applies to the processing of personal data of any individual “in the EU.” The individual’s nationality or residence is irrelevant. The GDPR protects the personal data of citizens, residents, tourists, and other persons visiting the EU. So as long as an individual is in the EU, any personal information of that person collected by any controller or processor who meets the requirements of Article 3(2) is subject to the GDPR. Learn more about having a data representative here.



Monday, March 4, 2019

Global Mobil (cellular) Roaming via Satellite - with your current iPhone!

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Ubiquitilink said, by employing a constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit, that pretty much any phone from the last decade should be able to text and do other low-bandwidth tasks from anywhere, even in the middle of the ocean or deep in the Himalayas.

The way the business would work is because the satellites operate on modified but mostly ordinary off-the-shelf software and connect to phones with no modifications necessary, Ubiquitilink will essentially be a worldwide roaming operator that mobile networks will pay to access.

Friday, March 1, 2019

EU Copyright Agreement is Reached for Digital Content

A new EU directive will effectively ban buyout contracts, require producers and publishers to give authors information about the economic performance of their work, and offer the possibility of renegotiating the terms of your contract if your work is significantly more successful than anticipated.


Read more here...

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Want a Better Way to Do Things? Start Fresh with Zero Based Design

Want to achieve radical changes in your business? Have you become distracted from long-term goals? Are you too busy putting out fires to look past short-term tactics? Perhaps it is time to consider a shake-up

Zero-based design (ZBD)encourages people to cast aside assumptions to expand the scope of discovery. It comes from the term “zero-based budgeting,” an accounting principle that implies every line item in a budget is to be reevaluated on an annual basis, under the assumption that nothing should be sacrosanct.

The name was first coined by Paul Polak and Mal Warwick in their 2013 book, The Business Solution to Poverty. The authors delineated their methodology for building a business from a frugal, grass-roots “Zero Point,” that grew to deliver economic value on a societal scale.

While ZBD has evolved since 2013, a few activities stay central to its approach:


  • Defining the Zero Point: More than a fictitious “blank slate,” the Zero Point is the suite of capabilities, systems, and processes you would keep if you were to rebuild your business all over again.
  • Designing the North Star: A clearly articulated and accepted description of the ideal target state is given for the business, its people, and their customers.

With ZBD, it is necessary that the North Star is visionary. It frames the ambition for business and informs the roadmap of labor required to succeed in this best target state. It helps to elevate the thinking within the business and stimulate the proper designing and activity within the short and medium term.

ZBD starts with an observation, then looks for the simplest and most likely explanation. As a result, it can appear foreign to those familiar with the traditional inductive or deductive thinking that permeates business management. It some ways, it resembles the Lean (Toyota) Method for problem-solving.

For example, ZBD practitioners tend to observe human behavior and distill the most likely insights from what they have witnessed. Abductive reasoning is a form of logical inference which starts with an observation or set of observations then seeks to find the simplest and most likely explanation for the observations, and the resulting insights, then inspire designers to generate game-changing ideas and then pose the question “how might we” rather than ask “why can’t we.” Such priming questions are crucial, as they foster the belief that innovative outcomes are achievable and that we can overcome obstacles that would otherwise be considered insurmountable.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

What is Kubernetes?

The rise of technology called containers, popularized by the company Docker, has helped spread virtualization of apps by simplifying building VM images for deployment. This approach lets a developer package their app or micro service with everything needed to run, so it works the same way the development sandbox as it does in Amazon's or Microsoft's cloud. While Docker's containers provide the tools for making code portable, developers needed a way to coordinate these containers to work with each other across servers and clouds, at massive scales — and Kubernetes, an open-source software project that started at Google, is the most popular approach. It has exploded in popularity, now being used by at more than 54% of the Fortune 500.

Kubernetes (an ancient Greek word for "pilot.”) was started by a group of Google engineers based on an internal project to help manage the search giant's massive infrastructure, but it is now an independent open source project that anyone can use or contribute to — and it has grown faster than the creators ever imagined. In a nutshell, Kubernetes helps developers run their applications at massive scales, taking advantage of lessons learned at Google. Because Kubernetes is open source, the code can be used, downloaded, or modified by anyone for free.

Just in the last year, we've seen some major acquisitions that signal how seriously tech giants are now taking Kubernetes: IBM spent $34 billion to purchase Red Hat; VMware's acquired Heptio. Both these moves have a lot to do with Kubernetes.

There are three typical ways of using Kubernetes: most popular is to run it from a major cloud provider like Amazon, Microsoft or Google, all of whom offer hosted Kubernetes services. Or, enterprises can buy a customized, fine-tuned version of Kubernetes from a company like VMware's Heptio to install on its own servers. The third way is to just download and run the free project and create an environment in a hosted private cloud or datacenter.

Kubernetes is able to manage all these clusters at once, and keep the code running continuously even as it organizes and re-organizes these containers on the fly. The end result is that developers can build, test, host and run large-scale applications on the cloud, with the Kubernetes software doing much to keep everything running smoothly.

As an added benefit, Kubernetes users get one more key advantage from all of this: Because Kubernetes runs on just about any kind of server, and most of the major cloud platforms, it's easier for users to take their application and move it from one to the other, or just write their software to run on multiple clouds at once.

Read more here...


Friday, January 25, 2019

Bicycles for the Older Generation

Cycling isn't just for young people. From this article in the Guardian, we read, Rowntree says her range is intended for “people who want to ride under their own steam for as long as possible, and then might switch to an e-bike when they need to....”

"Islabikes came about after friends and relatives asked their resident cycling expert – Rowntree is a former UK cyclocross champion – for advice on bikes for young children..."


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

From SlashDot: “It's as dystopian as it sounds," opines The Verge:

Chinese schools are now tracking the exact location of their students using chip-equipped "smart uniforms" in order to encourage better attendance rates, according to a report from state-run newspaper The Global Times. Each uniform has two chips in the shoulders which are used to track when and where the students enter or exit the school, with an added dose of facial recognition software at the entrances to make sure that the right student is wearing the right outfit (so you can't just have your friend, say, wear an extra shirt while you go off and play hooky). Try to leave during school hours? An alarm will go off.... 

There are additional features, too, according to a report from The Epoch Times: the chips can apparently detect when a student has fallen asleep in class, and allow students to make payments (using additional facial or fingerprint recognition to confirm the purchase). The uniforms are being used in 10 schools in China's Guizhou Province region, and apparently have been in use for some time -- according to Lin Zongwu, principal of No. 11 School of Renhuai, over 800 students in his school have been wearing the smart uniforms since 2016.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Proof of Concept Super-Secure Quantum Cable

A fibre optic cable is in use that harnesses a new kind of quantum computing power:

The cable's trick is a technology called quantum key distribution, or QKD. Any half-decent intelligence agency can physically tap normal fiber optics and intercept whatever messages the networks are carrying: They bend the cable with a small clamp, then use a specialized piece of hardware to split the beam of light that carries digital ones and zeros through the line. The people communicating have no way of knowing someone is eavesdropping, because they're still getting their messages without any perceptible delay.

QKD solves this problem by taking advantage of the quantum physics notion that light -- normally thought of as a wave -- can also behave like a particle. At each end of the fiber-optic line, QKD systems, which from the outside look like the generic black-box servers you might find in any data center, use lasers to fire data in weak pulses of light, each just a little bigger than a single photon. If any of the pulses' paths are interrupted and they don't arrive at the endpoint at the expected nanosecond, the sender and receiver know their communication has been compromised.

Encryption is worthless if an attacker manages to get the digital keys used to encode and decode messages. Each key is usually extra-encrypted, but documents disclosed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 showed that the U.S. government, which hoovers up most of the world’s internet traffic, can also break those tougher codes.

Read more here...

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Dislocation of the Workforce Known for Decades

Knowledge workers can work wherever is needed, as the communication infrastructure and information management systems support the workforce. Working from home (wherever that might be) is not limited to only when the weather kills your commute. With today’s internet, ever-evolving collaboration tools, and forward-thinking leaders, remote work is becoming the norm.

See this interview with the head of Intel, from 1981.

Productivity is enhanced. From a 2014 study, in which the travel website CTrip enabled a subset of  workers to work remotely on a regular basis, they then compared productivity to office-bound counterparts. With all other factors being equal, the remote workers ended up making 13.5 percent more calls than their comparable office workers. According to a 2016 survey of American remote workers, about 91 percent of people who work from home feel that they’re more productive than when they’re in an office.

Working remotely can make a worker more productive; according to studies, as long as the job is one that can be performed in such an environment, most people are more productive. Of course, raw productivity isn’t the only benefit. Having employees work from home can save businesses thousands of dollars per month (per employee) depending on office expenses, and could also raise employee morale, improving retention and collaboration. On top of that, remote workers take fewer sick days and less vacation time, giving them more work days overall.



Tuesday, January 8, 2019

UBI Could Work... with Tweaks

From SlashDot,
...the idea of universal basic income. Many in the tech elites tout it as the answer to job losses caused by automation, if only people would give it a chance. The idea is that all citizens receive a set amount of money from the government to cover food, housing, and clothing, without regard to income or employment status. This minimum stipend can be supplemented with wages from work. Advocates say it will help fight poverty by giving people the flexibility to find work and strengthen their safety net, or that it offers a way to support people who might be negatively affected by automation.
 "Basic income could work -- if you do it Canada style." We talked to the people on the ground getting the checks in Ontario's 4,000-person test and saw how it was changing the community. Then, just two months later, it was announced that the program is ending in the new year rather than running for three years. The last checks will be delivered to participants in March 2019. 
The article complains that in addition, Finland's test program ended this year after its initial trial period, while Y Combinator's experiment "has also faced more delays, pushing the experiment into 2019," saying these programs illustrate the three basic issues faced by basic income tests. First, there's political disagreements. ("The Ontario program was shut down by the province's newly installed Conservative government.") Then there's also concerns about funding -- "As you might imagine, giving away free money is expensive" -- and also fears about disrupting existing benefits "To avoid that, they've had to work with municipal and state agencies to get waivers for pilot recipients. But getting those waivers takes a lot of time and bureaucracy...."The only way the idea can ever be embraced on any sort of large-scale, meaningful level is with more data and bigger tests. Without that, no matter how much support it gets from Silicon Valley, it seems unlikely that the public, at least in the US, will ever come around."And MIT has more, as well...



Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A New Year, Time to Take the Temperature of... DevOps

Sometimes adoption of DevOps results in chaos -- perhaps because of the evolving relationship between development and operations? When taking a shared approach to accountability for application life cycle, many still lack processes, tools, and monitoring needed to know who is ultimately responsible for addressing and fixing issues.

As the lines between development and operations continue to blur, perhaps one should focus on adopting tools that deepen visibility into applications?  It seems that clarifying ownership of applications and services avoids the "since everyone owns this, nobody does" model.

Read more about the state of DevOps